THE ‘worst’ stretch of canal towpath in Oxford will finally be smoothed over on Monday when a long-awaited repairs scheme begins.

Residents who use the path beside the Oxford Canal, from Walton Well Road to Aristotle Lane, have complained it is uneven, forms puddles and is dangerous for cyclists.

The Canal and River Trust, Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council have now agreed to fund repairs, which will start on Monday and continue until February 23.

Trust senior project manager Nick Lewis said the scheme had been difficult to arrange because water voles, which are protected by law, were known to live along the canal banks.

Our top stories

The mating period of the aquatic rodents generally lasts from March into October.

Mr Lewis said: “For this work we are going to be pulling up the path and putting new tarmac finish down, which should be much smoother and safer.

“There will also be additional repairs to the banks to stop them eroding, using coir rolls.

“This section of the towpath has been difficult to plan for because it is occupied by water voles, which are protected, so there were only certain times we could do the work.

“As a result we need to get in there and finish by the end of February.”

The impending work has been welcomed by Jericho city councillor Susanna Pressel, who said the stretch of towpath was the worst in the city.

Residents had “been battling for years” to convince the local authorities to carry out the work, she added.

Ms Pressel said: “It’s such good news that the resurfacing of the worst stretch of the Oxford Canal towpath is to take place at last.

“Everyone locally will be absolutely delighted and tremendously grateful to the city council for finding this money.

“We have been battling for years to get to this point.

“Many people I know avoid this stretch because the surface is so diabolically uneven and full of puddles when it rains, so its closure won’t be such an inconvenience.

“And it will all be worth it when we get the new, smooth surface.”

She added: “One concern is that cyclists may go faster once the surface is improved.

“I would urge all cyclists to be considerate and slow right down when approaching pedestrians.”

The county council, which is responsible for closing the route during the work, has suggested cyclists and pedestrians use an alternative route of Rutherway, Merrivale Square, Plater Drive, and the public right of way footpath to Aristotle Lane.

St Margaret’s city councillor Elizabeth Wade said: “The renovation of this stretch of towpath will make a huge difference to anyone who enjoys walking beside the canal but has been put off by broken ground and potholes over the last couple of years.”